After an Illinois judge sentenced former police officer Jason Van Dyke to just over six years in prison for the 2014 murder of teenager Laquan McDonald, some community residents are calling it a “slap in the face.”
Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan sentenced the ex-officer on Friday to nearly seven years in prison. He was convicted last year of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm – one for every bullet he fired at 17-year-old McDonald.
Friday’s announcement means Van Dyke could be released on good behavior in less than three and a half years, the Associated Press reported. Prosecutors wanted Van Dyke to serve at least 18 years in prison; his attorneys sought for him to be released on probation.
William Calloway, a Chicago community organizer, told reporters on Friday that he and fellow community members were “devastated” after learning about Van Dyke’s sentencing. The activist was instrumental in helping to release the police dashcam video in 2015, that showed the white officer shooting the black teenager 16 times, including after McDonald was on the ground.
“He deserves to spend the rest of his life behind bars,” he said. “That’s something that’s a consensus among the activist community, the black community and most Chicagoans at large.”
He added that Van Dyke’s sentence of 81 months is “a slap in the face” to the community that has protested McDonald’s killing.
“And a slap on the wrist [for Van Dyke],” he continued.
Rev. Marvin Hunter, McDonald’s great-uncle, said the sentence reduced McDonald’s life to “a second-class citizen” status, the AP reported.
He also told reporters on Friday that Van Dyke’s sentence was a victory in that it sent a message to “unjust police officers” that they can serve time in prison for breaking the law, but that it’s a “sad day for America and the American justice system,” according to a video by the Chicago Sun-Times.
On Thursday, Cook County Associate Judge Domenica Stephenson acquitted three Chicago police officers, Thomas Gaffney, Joseph Walsh and David March, who were accused of trying to cover up the 2014 shooting.